Pistons mailbag: What to do if keep, lose first-round pick?

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
If the Pistons finish top three in the NBA Draft lottery, they might take a hard look at Luka Doncic.

Less than three percent.

That’s the chance the Pistons have of hitting the NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday night. They’ll need to have more luck than anything else to move up. After a 39-43 record, the Pistons earned the No. 12 pick in the first round of the draft.

As part the trade for Blake Griffin, the Pistons will send the pick to the Los Angeles Clippers unless they move into the top three — and there’s a small chance of that. There’s no other good-luck charm; there’s only that small-percentage chance of moving up and keeping the selection.

Luke Kennard, the Pistons’ pick at No. 12 last season, will represent the team on the stage on the television broadcast from Chicago. Last week, the Pistons parted ways with coach/team president Stan Van Gundy but general manager Jeff Bower will head the front office during this week’s draft combine in Chicago.

The Pistons also will have a second-round pick (42nd overall) to try to fill a need.

The direction of the front office and the draft prospects are among the topics in this week’s Pistons mailbag:

Question: If the Pistons finish top 3 in the Lottery... Do you foresee any players from other teams as trade targets? Or do u think they will keep the pick? @misterandyd

Let’s talk hypothetically, say we won the lottery who are we taking with a pick that lands at no.3. @TheRealSugar99

Answer: In the unlikely event that the Pistons jump into the top three in the lottery, they’d have their choice of the cream of the crop. The problem is that the best prospects — center DeAndre Ayton, wing Luka Doncic and forward Marvin Bagley — all seem to be at positions where they’re already set. The best guess is they’d take a hard look at Doncic, but the better move might be to trade out of the pick and garner more assets.

Financially, the Pistons are committed at point guard, center and power forward; the biggest areas of need are at the wing positions. Two of their last three first-round picks — Kennard and Stanley Johnson — are wings.

More: Pistons can take some cues from NBA's biggest winners

Q: Assuming we don't beat the odds and keep the pick, what would be the ideal step in the right direction this offseason? @ThatGuyGayle

A: The ideal step would be getting a solid team president, general manager and head coach and steering the franchise in the right direction. The roster is pretty much going to stay the same, so getting everything else aligned is critical.

Building a front office and coaching staff is a monumental task for a summer and although the current figures will remain on the job until June 30, there might be some holdovers to help maintain continuity from one group to the next.

There will be some turnover, but how the next few weeks unfold will help propel the franchise for the next four or five years, at least.

Q: Will Stanley Johnson finally be unleashed next season? @BluntmanCloud9

A: It somewhat depends on the new coach and front office. Johnson is in line for his second contract, which likely will mean a big payday, something the Pistons likely wouldn’t be able to absorb without some concrete proof that he can take the next step. The proof will have to be abundant in the pudding for that to happen.

Johnson has plenty of good attributes but they haven’t been revealed. He got a starting opportunity and didn’t run with it. After the Griffin trade, Johnson got another starting chance. There still isn’t definitive proof that he’s going to be a star — and if they’re going to make a huge financial commitment, they’ll need to see something along those lines.

Q: How would you feel if the Pistons were somehow able to Land David Griffin as Pres and Dwane Casey as Coach? — @steveflo24

A: That would be the dream for many Pistons fans, getting both the most accomplished candidates at both positions. They’ll have plenty of work to do to acquire both, but it’s not clear those are their top two choices. There’s been plenty of talk of Chauncey Billups as a candidate for team president, but does he have enough experience to make the jump from the broadcast booth to the front office?

It’s still something of a mystery, as there isn’t much news coming out of the Pistons front office or ownership group — but that’s somewhat customary in searches to remake the franchise.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard